Climate change and melting ice sheets could cause extreme Arctic waves up to 19 feet high by the end of the century, experts warn
- Researchers used both historical and climate simulations for this study
- They collected five sets of simulations of oceanic and atmospheric conditions
- The team found that 20-year-old extreme waves could occur once every two years
- These waves could reach a maximum height of over 19 feet
- The floods could also increase by a factor of four to ten by the end of the century
Arctic extreme waves usually occur every 20 years, but as climate change continues to plague the region, these events can happen every two to five years, a new study reveals.
Much of this area is frozen for most of the year, but rising temperatures have increased open water spells, which can lead to catastrophic waves.
Using computer models, researchers found that the area hit the hardest was in the Greenland Sea, which could experience a maximum annual wave height of over 19 feet.
The team also warns that flooding along the coast could increase by a factor of four to 10 by the end of this century.
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Arctic extreme waves usually occur every 20 years, but as climate change continues to plague the region, these events can happen every two to five years, a new study reveals. Much of this area is frozen for most of the year, but with rising temperatures, open water spells have increased, which can result in catastrophic waves
Mercè Casas-Prat, a research scientist at the Climate Research Division of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) Canada and the lead author of the new study, said, “It increases the risk of flooding and erosion. It increases dramatically almost everywhere. ‘
“This could have a direct impact on communities living close to the coast.”
The Arctic, the northernmost regions on Earth, has been hit hard by climate change in recent years.
Recently, areas have seen high temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The team also warns that flooding along the coast could increase by a factor of four to 10 by the end of this century. All this is caused by open water and melting ice caps
Casa-Prate noted that some areas are getting three times as hot as the rest of the world.
And the warm weather begins to thaw once frozen solid water.
Casa-Prate and her co-author Xiaolan Wang, also with the ECCC, wanted to know how global warming could impact the extreme waves of the Arctic ocean surface.
The team received reports that some of the northern regions have observed an increase in erosion, along with an increase in structural damage from extreme waves.
The Arctic, the northernmost regions on Earth, has been hit hard by climate change in recent years. Recently, areas have seen high temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit
For the study, the team collected five sets of multi-model simulations of oceanic and atmospheric conditions, such as surface winds that caused waves, and sea ice.
They then simulated wave conditions for two periods that are historical (1979 to 2005) and future predictions from 2081 to 2100.
Using the entirety of multi-model simulations, the team was able to assess the uncertainty in the changes in the extreme Arctic waves due to the uncertainty in the five climate models used.
Wave height increase was the most striking finding from the simulations and the worst affected areas were along the Greenland Sea, which lies between Greenland and Norway.
The study found that the maximum annual wave heights there could increase by as much as 19.7 feet.
The models don’t weigh much in how much the waves could change, but Casa-Prat said she is confident there will be an increase.
And she and her co-author suggest that by the end of the century, the timing of the highest waves may also change.
“At the end of the century, the maximum comes on average later in the year and also becomes more extreme,” said Casas-Prat.
Judah Cohen, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in Casas-Prat’s research, said these waves can be particularly devastating to coastal areas that have never been in open water before.
“We are already seeing these increased risks along the Arctic coastlines with damage to shoreline structures that had never been damaged before,” he said.
“As more ice melts and more of the Northern ocean surface is exposed to the wind, the waves will increase in height because the wave height depends on the distance the wind blows across open water.”
SEA LEVELS CAN INCREASE BY 2300 TO 4 FEET
Global sea levels could rise by 2,300 to 1.2 meters (4 feet) even if we hit Paris’ 2015 climate goals, scientists have warned.
The long-term change will be driven by a thaw of ice from Greenland to Antarctica that will once again draw global coastlines.
Sea level rise threatens cities from Shanghai to London, to low-lying parts of Florida or Bangladesh and to entire countries such as the Maldives.
It’s vital that we cut emissions as soon as possible to avoid an even bigger rise, a Germany-led team of researchers said in a new report.
By 2300, the report predicted that sea levels would rise by 0.7-1.2 meters, even if nearly 200 countries fully met the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The objectives of the agreements include reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the second half of this century.
Ocean levels will rise inexorably as the heat-dissipating industrial gases already emitted linger in the atmosphere and melt more ice, it said.
In addition, water naturally expands when it warms above four degrees Celsius (39.2 ° F).
Any five-year delay after 2020 reaching a spike in global emissions would mean a sea-level rise of 20 centimeters (8 inches) by 2,300.
“Sea level is often communicated as a very slow process that you can’t do much about … but the next 30 years really matter,” said lead author Dr. Matthias Mengel of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Potsdam, Germany, said Reuters.
None of the nearly 200 governments signing the Paris Accords are on track to deliver on their promises.